Booking a year in advance for a 4 generation, 7 cabin, family cruise, I chose the Valor for its particular Western Carribean itinerary and departure port. Opting to go while the grandkids were not in school, we booked the last week of Aug as it had the best rate.
Watching it as it left the coast of Africa, spent a week fretting about the projected path of TS Isaac, all the time heading for Miami. Hoping it would miss by one day either way, it didn't matter to me if we spent 6 days at sea, as long as we were able to get on the ship. Unfortunately, its proximty coincided with our departure.
With an imminent storm, erring on the side of caution, the Miami Port Authority closed the port the evening before we were to board. It stayed closed for roughly 44 hours. Spent that whole time waiting with baited breath for updates that were slow to come.
Finally, we received several changing notifications that checkin was to start around 4Pm, then 7Pm and finally checkin started around 11PM!!! With everyone exhausted and people still checking in, they held the lifeboat drill and then the ship finally pulled away at 2:30 AM.
From there on out the trip was almost fantastic. We had beautiful weather, but we did not go to any of the ports we were supposed to go to. This was somewhat of a bummer as we were all looking forward to going to Key West. Instead, we went to Cozumel and Roatan. Having previously been once to Roatan, at which time we had gone to an impoverished port, this time we went to Mahogany Bay, which turned out to be a nice surprise. They had a splendid beach, with plenty of chairs, trees for shade and a modern shopping village, with a chairlift ($$$) that ran between the village and the beach.
The ship is very similar to the Destiny, which we have been on a couple of times. I feel that they could have made better use of the poolside, big screen, theatre which seemed to mostly play Carnival spots, and one night had a very old movie on - Goldfnger. Really? The water slide was a blast. Another reason for booking Carnival was the kids camp, but the parents of the children in our group seemed to make little use of it. We had one child with special needs, in a family of 3 closely aged boys, and he does quite well when he is with his brothers, but the Camp crew would only put them into different age groups. This did not work out.
The cruise director was largely absent on this trip. Don't know if he was ill that week, but the only time I saw him was when we were getting off the ship. Absent too was the usual hype and bombardments of announcements of events going on.
Kudos to Carnival for compensating guests for what was a bad situation, obviously, beyond their control. Not only were we provided generous onboard credits but also received prorated refunds for missed cruise time - even though it took 4 weeks for the latter in my case. I'll be sure to book Carnival again, but definitely not an advanced booking during hurricane season.